Heart Full Of Sorrow

Ash

Sometimes I get to thinking too much and it makes my head hurt. When Tess was with me I’d play some bump and run with her and forget about what made me sad. Now I’m sad because Tess isn’t with me anymore.

I’m so grateful I have Journey. She can’t replace Tess but she has such a sunny spirit she always makes me smile. When I look at her I see myself as a pup.

Now I’m raising a pup of my own. I’m Uncle Ash to Journey and she looks at me with the same trust I felt for Codie.

What’s making me sad is thinking about all the mutts that have passed through Asherpark. It feels like one loss after another starting with my beloved Aunt Codie, who helped raise me from a pup and taught me my manners.

We said good-bye to Shiloh two weeks ago. We all knew her end was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We only had Shi for three years, but she’ll stay in our hearts forever.

Shiloh lived a lot longer than anyone expected. She was diagnosed with cancer eighteen months ago. We were told she might only have a few months to live, but that little mutt fooled everybody.

On her last day Shiloh told me she wanted to talk to me. We wandered down by the front gate while Journey was busy chasing flies. Shiloh lay in the cool green grass and sniffed the wind.

Shiloh said she was ready to give up her body and become a spirit dog. She said she wasn’t afraid to die but she worried about leaving the rest of us behind.

“You have a great big bark but you’re really a big softie,” Shiloh said. “You’ve wept for every dog who’s crossed over.”

It’s true. I’ve loved every mutt who has called Asherpark home. I miss them all terribly.

“I know you’re gonna cry when I go, Ash. That’s okay. Your tears show me how much I mattered to you,” Shiloh said.

“I love you, Shiloh!” I blurted out.

“I know, Ash. I love you too,” Shiloh whispered.

Shiloh straightened up her crooked back. She lifted her head high and let the breeze blow through her beautiful creamy fur.

Shiloh

Shiloh

“Courage, Ash. When you think of me I want you to remember my courage. I had everything going against me, but I never gave up. Don’t you give up either,” Shiloh implored.

We walked slowly back to the house. It was all I could do to keep from blubbering.

“I promise, Shiloh. I promise.”

 

I’m Leaving Now

Shiloh

Shiloh

I always knew this day would come, I just didn’t know when. Endings come too fast when you’re happy, and I’ve been so very happy at Asherpark.

It’s a beautiful warm sunny day. It’s the kind of day that makes your heart ache for something you can’t quite explain.

I’m leaving this evening. Mama is waiting for me on the other side of the bridge just like she said she would. But first I have a few things to say.

Ash, you’ve been so good to me. You made me laugh. You were gentle when you played with me. I felt happy just being near you. Mama loved you too. Thank you, Ash. I will miss you.

Journey, I’ve grown to love your silly puppy self. You tried your best to be respectful and not annoy me. Did you know that when you were asleep in your crate I would lie down next to you? I liked to watch your lips quiver when you were dreaming.

There are no words big enough to thank the many people who saved my life when I had no hope. The rescue people in California who took me to a foster home and then drove me to Asherpark are special angels. I wouldn’t be here without them.

My human family at Asherpark showed me more kindness and love than I had ever known. They made me forget about the dark times. They taught me how how good love feels.

In some ways today has been a very good day. Once mom realized this was my last day, she never left my side. She’s been sitting next to me all day reminding me how much she loves me. She says my passage from this world will be an easy one. I hope she’s right. I hate needles!

There’s so much more to say, so many people to thank, but time has run out. Blessings on all who have dared to love a throw away dog like me. I will never forget your kindness.

 

Reflections

Shiloh

Shiloh

This has been a hard month for Ash. It was one year ago that he lost his best friend, Tess. I know it’s on his mind even though he can’t bring himself to talk about it.

For months there had been something not quite right with Tess. Mom took her to four different vets but nobody had the answer. When the vets finally figured it out it was too late to save her.

It was hard for all of us when Tess died. She was still a young dog and full of swagger. She and Ash were so close. They used to spend hours sharing secrets and barking at shadows.

Tess and Ash

Tess and Ash

Tess barely had time to say her good-byes before the vet came to our house to help her across the bridge.

Ash was beside himself with grief. Every night for a week he dug under the fence and ran into the ravine where he played as a boy. He said he had to be alone in case Tess wanted to talk to him.

Ash grieved hard for a long time. He was sad and mad and crazy all at the same time. He wouldn’t let mom out of his sight, but then he’d hear the coyotes and run off to the ravine.

One day I heard Ash tell mom he wanted to raise a puppy. He said the pack needed a new soul and he wanted to teach a puppy the way his beloved Aunt Codie taught him.

Ash told mom he was still young enough to put up with a puppy and they could have lots of fun together. Then he burst into tears and told mom how lonely he was without Tess. Two months later we brought the puppy home and Ash isn’t lonely any longer. There’s more to this story, but for now this picture says it all.

Ash and Journey

Ash and Journey

 

 

Wishing Her Well

Shiloh

Shiloh

Everyone says I have a pretty face. I guess so. I have dark brown eyes that betray my feelings. My cream color makes me stand out in a crowd.

Beauty is as beauty does. How a mutt looks doesn’t matter as much as what a mutt does.

Mom says my spirit is pure. I’m not sure. I have evil thoughts and I’ve done some nasty things.

I wished Tess would have an early death and suddenly she was gone from a fast growing tumor. I bit little Journey right after she arrived at Asherpark.

Mom says I can be forgiven my trespasses because of what was done to me. Maybe. It’s true my mother and I were victims of extreme cruelty. But on the other hand we were rescued, cared for and ultimately driven to Asherpark, where we were surrounded by kindness and love.

Then along comes little Journey. Born into a loving home, handled with care, and chosen at the tender age of four weeks. She came home to Asherpark just before she turned eight weeks old.

JourneySuch a cute little bug of a pup. She will grow up to be a beauty. More importantly she has the temperament to be a very special soul. She’s had every advantage: puppy classes, puppy play times, day school and puppy boarding plus the doting attention of her human mom and her Uncle Asher.

When Journey first arrived I admit I was envious. She is beautifully formed, has a pleasing disposition, and her blue eyes draw people to her.

In contrast I’m malformed, crippled, and stained with the leakage from my tumor. Journey is everything I am not. Life isn’t fair, I know that. But sometimes I just wish things could be a little more equal.

I bit Journey because I resented her and wanted nothing to do with her. Though she screamed in pain, she seemed more perplexed than angry. In fact she has never held it against me that I drew blood with my bite.

Over the past few months I have watched her grow. When she is asleep in her crate I quietly move onto the bed next to her. I watch her while her puppy dreams make her squirm and wiggle. I listen quietly as she sighs and chortles in her sleep.

Journey is everything I would have wished for myself but could never be. I have no answers, only questions. I wish Journey well. Her puppy silliness has helped displace the sorrow at Asherpark.

If I live long enough Journey and I may become friends. For now it is enough that I can watch her develop. I get a sort of vicarious pleasure when she does well.

Most of all I am happy for Asher that he has a playmate again. The Blue Dogs as mom calls them. I wish them both well.

Journey and Asher

Journey and Asher

 

 

 

 

 

My Autumn

Shiloh

Shiloh

It seems fitting that my life should end in autumn. Dogs are born, dogs die. I’ve lived my life, now it’s time for Journey to live hers.

I’m not sad to have reached the end of my life. I’d like to live longer because I’m happy now, but it’s ok. You can’t have everything the way you want it.

It’s hard for people when they see my crippled body and hear my story not to pity me. But I feel no pity for myself.

I am a survivor. I survived against all odds. I survived cruelty and neglect. I survived two trips to death row. I survived near starvation and now I have survived a year since my cancer diagnosis.

Should I be bitter about the harm I have suffered? Or should I be grateful for the love and care extended to me by complete strangers? Bitterness is self indulgent. I’ve chosen to be grateful.

When you cross the bridge to a new dimension, you can’t bring a suitcase of your favorite stuff. You can’t even bring your body. Instead you leave your fur behind and only your spirit moves on.

I’ve got my spirit bag packed and ready. It holds memories of people and dogs I have loved. It’s bursting with joy over my life at Asherpark. It’s filled with longing for my mother, who promised she is waiting for me on the other side.

While I’m still in this world, I spend quiet hours thinking about the happy times I had with Ash. Even though I can’t play rough with him like I used to, I smile whenever I feel his boy energy next to me. I love that crazy dog.

But most of all I cling to memories of my human mom. In my mind’s eye I see her kneeling in front of me. As she looks into my eyes she strokes my head and whispers  how much she loves me. That’s how my life will end. The last thing I will hear in this world is mom telling me, “I love you, Shiloh.”

Until my final breath I contemplate one simple notion. “Life is but a journey; death is returning home.”¹

¹Rainer Maria Rilke